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Find out how to get the best out of loners in a workplace

Find out how to get the best out of loners in a workplaceImage Credit: Supplied

No two people are the same and that is why, within your work-teams, there will be those with whom you get on easily and then those it is often a challenge to communicate with. That is just a fact of life.

Let us look at Johan who manages a team of talented marketing professionals who need to collaborate, daily, on different projects. One of his team is Amelia who is a highly proficient, technically-skilled team-member but who likes to work alone and just get on with the job in hand. But, she is not a good communicator and in many ways a loner.

Her style and personality may not be a problem unless she is part of a team in which intercommunication is usually essential. We already know that any chain is only as strong as its weakest link and, in this case, Amelia is the link that weakens the chain because she often fails to attend meetings on time and is inefficient in communicating information to team members, resulting in unacceptable delays and missed deadlines.

This leaves, Johan, the team manager, in a difficult situation. With Amelia, he has a very talented, intelligent individual who is highly productive when they work alone, but with little interest in working with others. He values her input but is acutely aware that her inability to communicate damages the effectiveness of the team and frequently causes friction within the team.

So what can Johan do to keep Amelia in the post yet at the same time ensure that she is an integral part of the team?

* Empathy: Johan needs to have an understanding of her personality type and her way of communicating that is different to the others. In essence, her comfort zone is a solitary one.

* Communicate: Explain to her the perspective from the rest of the team. Encourage her to try to imagine if she were in their position, how she might feel. Ask her to appreciate that the others would like to involve her in their decision-making and to be able to ask her opinion on aspects, particularly technical, on current and future projects.

* Identify strengths and weakness: Enumerate the things that she does well and those that could be improved. It could be that she finds it difficult to speak up at meetings and is more comfortable in one-to-one situation. If this is the case, then it might be a good idea to arrange to give her a 'mentor' within the team in order to better facilitate interpersonal communication.

* Motivation: In conversation, identify if she really does like to work alone or is it that she needs skills-training in effective communication. Maybe, she might well like to attend a training course or receive some coaching. One shouldn't always assume that because she doesn't communicate that she doesn't want to — it may just be that she doesn't know how.

* Be open and honest: Tell her that you value her input and, tactfully, explain the impact of her behaviour upon the rest of the team.

* Update: Use every opportunity to involve her in group discussions and decisions, even where she is working on a different project. Endeavour to ensure that you update her on what is going on in other departments or divisions. Ask for her advice to reinforce the message that she is an essential and valued member of the team.

It is accepted that it is not always easy to try and integrate a natural loner into a team, but as they are frequently those that are highly skilled and talented, it is invariably worth the time and effort to do so.

I have personally experienced individuals who have changed from being termed a loner to 'a good communicator'. The reason being that no one had ever before bothered to invest the time and energy in giving reassurance, gaining their confidence and explaining to them the value of cooperation and joint effort.

In cases in which I have been involved, lives were changed, teams were made cohesive and productivity peaked!

Now, I would say that is really worth the effort.

Key points

* Valuing someone will bring about change.

* Efficient communication is everything.

* Confidence and empathy are the watchwords.

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Source: Carole Spiers, Special to

The writer is CEO of an international stress management consultancy and her book, 'Show Stress Who's Boss!', is available in all good bookshops